Project management – 7 steps to success; there I go again with the magic number 7 but project management is all about risk, predicting it, spreading it or mitigating it so you can get to your end goal.
So look with that in mind here are 7 steps
Remember you are part of the team and for project management you must have the right team. Probably your biggest risk is people, getting the right people with the right skills at the right time to do the right job is essential. A project can be extended or stymied if you cannot get the right team skill set form the offset.
Your team will need to be set aside ring fenced if you like, so as to mitigate a lot of the people-related risks. Charities are often struggling with HR resources, so if this is high priority project then the best people must be set aside for it.
Its essential to allocate resources properly. Understand when people are available and book them inYou may have to plan around them in order that you aren’t suddenly time constrained because an individual isn’t available for 2weeks whilst they are on annual leave.
Clarity is what this is about, you have to know what you aim to achieve, with clarity everything else will sit with this and therefore knowing outcomes or achievements will mitigate risks immediately. When you have clarity you can offer clarity to others, give them the tools for the job and remove I didn’t get instructions, I didn’t know you wanted that, from your risk list.
You may have to do feasibility studies (very common in large fundraising projects), you will undertake workshops and user groups to test out the ideas and you will want to interview stakeholders. Engage all the stakeholders through every iteration of project management by using ‘Agile’ then they will be there on each outcome and each step of the way ensuing the final result is what was wanted.
Your project should be a series of phases the first of which should be a feasibility or investigation stage to fully scope out the enabling work and test out your solution in a limited way prior a project going active. The most important thing for a charity is it can prove (or disprove) the business case without having to commit the full investment.
4. Listen and Learn
When I first learned about project management, it was drummed into us that you must include ALL stakeholders. If people are overlooked or their contributions disparaged their reactions, or lack of input can cause a lot of issues. This happened in one organisation I know where a commercial kitchen was installed by the management without a) understanding kitchen layout and b)fully including the cook who used the kitchen.
Consultation is an over used word, and often used to tick boxes rather than listen properly. By listening to all your stakeholders you identify residual risks and then gain strategies to engage more effectively with the stakeholders concerned building rapport and ensuring shared ownership and buy-in.
5. Spread and Scope
Its often tempting to take all the risking store it into one area of your project, don’t do it, either should you allow all the risk to be held by one person. Spread that risk, spread the responsibility.
An example of this is where perhaps you know there is a risk but feel one contractor might deal with it because they cost more and they are suggesting that paying them extra will ameliorate the risk…it won’t.
All risk must be quantified if you cant measure it you cant manage it. So risks must be managed jointly with included depts or contractors or other stakeholders to spread out the actions and also the impact should the risk occur.
6. Test Everything
You are under pressure to complete, so you cut the testing. DON’T !. It will always catch you out, what ever part of the project you are in, you need to test outcomes and test inputs.
Testing is an important part of making sure that your project is manageable. Testing helps reveal problems in project management that might stop the projection its tracks at a later stage. Test everything: training materials, implementation plans, and the deliverables. Test frequently and allow longer than you expect. e.g part of your fundraising project is collection boxes, your preplan suggests £50 per box per month, did you test that, because if you got to put out a hundred boxes and volunteers to collect and count and you are only getting ten a box then your total is at risk.
I get fed up with people saying I dont have time for that….well time is part of project management. Set aside time for testing and double it, no one ever has enough time or sets aside enough time when they calculate…double it. This means you need contingency in your schedule. Remember testing will find problems, then you need time to fix or re-strategise.
7. Always have a Plan B
You need Plan B (perhaps even C) with phases
- Extra resources
- Extra time
- Contingency funds
- Options to stop and think again or reduce the scope
- Options to break the project into segments
Look no one wants to use Plan B, but you always look better if you have it.
Your Trustees/directors need to agree contingency, discuss additional funding, what they want if things aren’t feasible as they imagine them. As a charity you need to discuss how you might secure additional funding in the face of unforeseen issues and how you will access this when the time comes.